Boston Red Sox

Panda’s pounds: Giants wanted Sandoval to stay on weight regimen, Red Sox were more lenient

Pablo Sandoval San Francisco Giants

The Pablo Sandoval Unapologetically Over The Giants Tour made another stop, this time USA Today. Jorge Ortiz got the new Red Sox third baseman to open up about the Giants once again, and Sandoval is still upset at management for how negotiations went last year in Spring Training, he’s still ready to move on (he even changed his phone number), and one part of that Bleacher Report article was misconstrued by many.

“I said I miss Hunter and Bochy,” said Sandoval, 28. “If I start naming the 25 players, I’d spend all day. How could I not miss them? It was a group that formed a dynasty.”

Sandoval was more than happy to leave, rather than continue building that dynasty. And beyond those reasons that we already knew about respect and the desire for a “new challenge” in Boston, we found out another, meatier reason why Sandoval didn’t even have any interest in hearing the Giants’ “final offer.”

The Red Sox know the way to a Panda’s heart.

Sandoval acknowledged he was irritated by what he considered the Giants’ harping on his weight, which tended to increase significantly during the season, hampering his defensive range. He pointed out the Red Sox have hired a nutritionist and he’s trying to pay heed, but conceded the results don’t show so far. He wouldn’t reveal where the scales stop, saying simply he’s comfortable at his current weight.

Sandoval is pleased the Red Sox have not made an issue of his weight, and they smartly refrained from bringing up the topic while pursuing him in the offseason.

However, Sandoval’s less-than-svelte physique has already created consternation among New England fans, as an unflattering photo early in camp showed him sporting a significant gut.

“I’m a professional and I know what I have to do,” said Sandoval, listed as 5-11 and 255. “I know where I’ve failed and how I’ve grown up. If I had signed (with the Giants), I knew I would be under a (weight) regimen for five years, and I’m not going to be happy someplace where I’m under that kind of regimen, where I can’t be myself.”

None of this is all that surprising. The Giants nagged Sandoval to lose weight after the 2010 season (leading to the creation of “Camp Panda”), and it was public knowledge that they were upset about his weight two years ago. To go from making so-called insulting offers before the 2014 season, to a five-year, $95 million offer that could’ve gone higher after the World Series, was going to come with some strings. Namely, the Giants wanted assurances that Sandoval wouldn’t let himself balloon to the point where he couldn’t field his position.

It sounds like the Red Sox came in with a different tact. Maybe something like, “Oh, we love you the way you are — you’re the kind of postseason star who’ll become an instant hero for Red Sox Nation. We know you’ll work hard, don’t worry about daily weigh-ins and a wayward eye every time you reach for an unhealthy option in the team kitchen.” Companies that are in the courtship phase don’t have to show all their cards right away. Why would they? Honey and vinegar comes to mind here.

The Red Sox may have hired a nutritionist, but that’s a person whose advice is available — if requested — for meal-planning suggestions that include lots of baked chicken and kale. That’s different than mandatory time on a treadmill or stationary cycle. That could be a first step in the protect-our-investment-in-Sandoval plan, while the Giants didn’t have anything to hide or a desire to change their approach. They certainly couldn’t tell Sandoval the weight management stuff would cease AFTER he signed his first mega-deal.

Boston banked on the recruiting powers of David Ortiz when they locked down Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and Ortiz could represent a backchannel the team will use to keep Sandoval’s weight under 300 pounds.

“I’ve been getting after Pablo about that,” Ortiz said. “Because Pablo is very agile, but he’s 28 now. If he doesn’t take care of himself, in a couple of years he could lose that agility overnight. So I’m talking to him about eating better, because if you want to stay in this game, you have to take care of yourself.”

It sounds weird that he’s getting dietary advice from a man called “Big Papi,” but maybe that’s what Sandoval needs to keep him on the straight and narrow: a peer who’s been through the same struggles and can connect with Sandoval in a more fun/gentle/respectful way. By now it’s probably obvious that he wasn’t connecting all that well with Buster Posey, the Giants’ leader on the position player side, a man who seems like he’s never made a mistake in his life. In fact, the Giants don’t have anyone on the roster like Ortiz, a larger-than-life (figuratively) Latin player, but that’s a discussion for another time.

How much did the weight thing have to do with Sandoval’s situation? Only he and his representation know for sure, but it always seemed a little weird that he’d want so badly to leave a successful team, with so many adoring fans and teammates he appeared to get along with over the past several years, all because Brian Sabean took a hardline stance last March. Based on his comments to USA Today, the freedom for Sandoval to be himself — without the restrictions of a balanced diet, regular exercise and regular visits to the training room scale — was non-negotiable.

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